The Western Trust is planning to set up specific centres in Derry city to deal with COVID-19 cases, the Derry News has learned.
Health professionals have met with the Western Trust Board to discuss a strategy that would allow GP practices to operate as normal and take some of the pressure off Altnagelvin’s Emergency Department (ED).
COVID-19 stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019.
It is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways caused by a virus called coronavirus.
Local GP Paul Molloy said he met with the board and Trust to talk about the setting up of specific centres to deal with these patients – ‘COVID centres’.
“We are attempting to get areas to allow practices to go about their normal business and to keep the ED department from coronavirus."
The Western Trust confirmed that it is under consideration and further details will be available at some stage next week.
At present, health centres, like hospitals and pharmacies, have advised patients with symptoms not to attend but to self-isolate for seven days or if they live with someone who has symptoms to stay at home for fourteen days.
The NHS has said it will contact people from Monday, March 23, if they are at particularly high risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus.
Those people will be given specific advice about what to do.
The issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become a cause for concern amongst healthcare workers.
However, it’s understood that additional supplies are now making their way to hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies in Derry.
Dr Molloy said that PPE has been made available to workers at Clarendon Medical practice.
“There has been a difficulty getting this stuff and it’s been difficult across the UK. The board have been very proactive and we are currently waiting on more PPE.
"We have everything we need."
Meanwhile, Dr John O’Kelly of Aberfoyle Medical Practice is supportive of prioritising hospitals as health centres have advised patients with symptoms not to attend.
He said: “We have a small number of PPE issued to us in line with other practices and have requested more. At this stage hospital - where most suspected COVID 19 patients are being seen - have been prioritised.
“Our aim is to avoid patients with suspected symptoms from attending.”
A Department of Health spokesperson has cautioned that Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will come under pressure and items in short supply are already under strict controls.
Health and Social Care NI has maintained and, in a number of cases, increased stock levels of key critical products built up in anticipation of leaving the European Union.
The spokesperson added: “Whilst the majority of those key critical stock lines exceed eight weeks stock, it is inevitable that due to the significant increase in demand worldwide for Personal Protection Equipment, stock availability will come under pressure.
“Currently there are a small number of items for which controls to help manage short supply are in place, these controls have been agreed by all Trusts.
“Products not subject to these controls are replenished through normal channels.
“Packs of PPE have been delivered to GPs and Community Pharmacies.”
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